Looting Matters: Why Has a Coffin Been Returned to Egypt?
SWANSEA, Wales, March 19 /PRNewswire/ — David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the recent return of an Egyptian coffin from the U.S. to Egypt.
Early in March 2010 an Egyptian Third Intermediate Period painted wooden coffin was handed over to archaeologist Dr Zahi Hawass at the National Geographic Society in Washington. The coffin had been seized at Miami International Airport in the fall of 2008.
It appears that a sharp-eyed customs official was suspicious of the consignment. An investigation suggested that this 3000-year-old coffin was not accompanied by paperwork that would confirm how and when it had left Egypt.
The coffin had been derived from an antiquities dealer in Barcelona in Spain. It was reported that it had been sent via Ireland. The coffin had been dispatched to a North American dealer who was reported already to have sold it on to an anonymous Canadian collector.
The Barcelona galerista initially challenged the seizure but he was unable to present what the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) called “a credible provenance.” The lack of paperwork meant that the coffin could be handed over to the Egyptian authorities under its Cultural Patrimony Laws.
A statement by Hawass indicated “the coffin had left Egypt after 1970 as the earliest public record of the piece dated to 2007 when it was exhibited in Madrid.”
The Spanish gallery has also been connected with a major Italian investigation (“Operation Ghelas”) into antiquities removed from Sicily and southern Italy. Some 70 defendants had been due to face trial in Sicily.
The coffin is now recognized as belonging to a private individual called Imesy. It is due to be put on display in a museum in Egypt.
The incident is a reminder that the U.S. authorities will take firm action against those who attempt to import antiquities without the appropriate documentation.
SOURCE Looting Matters